The first day of Senate hearings started on Monday in the confirmation process of Judge Amy Coney Barrett as the next Supreme Court associate justice.
There are multiple cases working their way up to the Supreme Court, even in just the next year, that will directly impact New Yorkers. If confirmed, Barrett’s ruling could directly influence which way many of these decisions will go.
First, on November 10, the Supreme Court will be hearing arguments in a case challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.
In 2017, President Donald Trump created a tax overhaul as the penalty for not having health insurance was set to $0, basically rolling back the individual mandate provision.
Because of this, the case alleges that this also renders Obamacare unconstitutional.
This would be most likely the first, and most consequential, case Barrett will be hearing arguments on.
On Monday, during the hearing, Barrett said she would interpret the laws the way they are written.
Vincent Bonventre, a professor at Albany Law School, weighed in.
"The Supreme Court renders decisions of policy all the time," Bonventre explained. "That’s why these cases are before the Supreme Court. Because you can’t just look at a text and decide the answer. Free speech. 'Oh, does free speech mean corporations are allowed to give money to political campaigns?' So spending money is now speech."
Barrett could also decide critical church vs. state cases as well.
When COVID-19 first hit and the state closed down religious organizations, there were immediately lawsuits from groups saying this infringed on their religious rights.
One case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court out of California, and Chief Justice John Roberts ended up siding with the four more liberal judges, which at the time included Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They ruled that closing down churches during a pandemic would be allowed.
However, this is bound to be brought up again if there is a second wave of the virus that shuts down the entire state.
Even just last week, the Catholic Diocese in Brooklyn filed a lawsuit requesting a temporary restraining order from the new COVID-19 restrictions that shut down houses of worship in red zone clusters. A judge denied this motion.
There are also cases surrounding abortion rights and services that Barrett will have to make a decision on.
Barrett is a Christian and has said numerous times she is against abortion. How will this play role if she is nominated as a Supreme Court justice?
Bonventre said that is a question most senators will not ask because of that separation of church from state.
"For the senators to be asking her about her religion, the religion test," Bonventre said about why senators had their hands tied in this line of questioning. "But also for her to be bringing her religious views and deciding cases based upon that. In either case, these things are difficult."